Huawa Musa Magaji, a native of Chibok, borno State where 219 schoolgirls were abducted in April 2014, is also a child protection consultant with UNICEF. Magaji tells an eye witness story of Boko Haram insurgency in Chibok.
I come from a town called Chibok in Borno State. I moved to Maiduguri years ago but I still have family in Chibok and try to visit when I can, it’s my home. Chibok has become the symbol of suffering here for women and children. Away from Chibok, my work has kept me in Maiduguri. It has been very difficult here since the day the insurgents came. Many people have lost their lives, it’s a thing you can never forget.
Magaji with some of the embattled children
I was doing protection work voluntarily before our lives were changed by the insurgents. I’ve always felt I should help those who are helpless. When they attacked, everything changed, the needs of our community changed. We saw so many vulnerable people.
For six years, we have been trying to help get children back to school, to help them talk about their experiences, reunite them with their families and try to help them heal. It’s been a long and difficult time for our town. Boko Haram had a tight grip on our lives.
I have seen a lot of things that you couldn’t even imagine. We saw children coming without parents, they maybe fled to Cameroon or Chad, or maybe they were killed. You would see children coming barefoot, half dressed. We saw a child come wearing only knickers.
The women come with nothing. They trek for hundreds of kilometers on foot. Children can’t trek long distances, some die on the way. These women have seen their husbands get killed, slaughtered. These are things a mother, a woman, can never forget.
Some become captives of Boko Haram because they can’t flee with their children in time. It is heart-breaking.
Today we spend our days visiting camps and working with children and women who need help. We work a lot with young women who have been forced from their homes and abducted by Boko Haram before eventually managing to escape. These girls, they have nothing.
Recently I met with two girls, not yet eighteen, who are living in a camp, and are at the mercy of others. They don’t have any skills, they have no way to make a living and they’re carrying children of Boko Haram fighters.
People call them wives of Boko Haram and other people in the camp really torment them. There are so many difficulties in the camp. Even their close relatives shun them. They are so young. When you speak to them, they start crying.
These girls are just normal girls. They want their children to be educated, after all, they are children too. Without an education, they really have no hope so it’s critical we reach them while they recover so they know people care, so they know there is a way forward.
I want them to escape the horror and trauma of their experiences. It is such a horrific moment for a woman to be abducted like the poor girls in Chibok, to be forced into marriage.
For the ones still in captivity I want to touch their hearts. I want them to be able to come back to their parents. Their parents are suffering so much. I want Boko Haram to see reason and send these girls home.
Once we can have peace, we can find hope for the future of Borno and for a future for the families torn apart by Boko Haram.